I gotta tell ya folks, this was a tough weekend. It reminded me exactly how much work goes into road-racing ANY machine. As most know, I flipped my Windle/Suzuki race machine last month while attempting a hairball pass in Portland. I arrived the day before practice and set up outside in the heat for 6 hours to grind, bond, and otherwise repair the crumbled body to my machine. It looked horrid close up, but it was physically solid. My stalwart passenger Chris Rizzo did a bang up job repairing the damaged header to my exhaust, but it didnt quite line up. Without so much as a complaint he was off to finish adjusting it and was ready to meet us Sat morning.
We managed to get through tech inspection, and set out for practice number one. We had removed the read suspension and installed a steel bar in it’s place. The shock was so mangled from age it sagged almost to it’s bottom while just sitting static. The strut bar was a bit too long though and it left the bike pulling to the left, darting wildly under braking, and lofting the chair wheel in the air with ridiculous ease. I tried it for one more session to see if I could smooth things out. Things were better, but the chair lifting in turn 3 was a serious problem, slowing my progress. We reinstalled the shock and- using the smoother driving style- made good progress thoughout the day.
Things were blazing hot all Saturday, and I wasn’t excited about being in leathers for Sunday’s two-race format. Still, I managed to make a last morning practice session, where I adjusted my line though high-speed turn 1. We had been locking up the chair wheel in turn 1, 3, 4, and 7 all Saturday. This put several flat spots on the tire, causing a huge vibration down the front straight. Without anything to do about it, I gridded up on the 2nd row for race 1.
My start was neither good nor bad. My lack of power had me swallowed up by much of the field though. We went 3-wide into turn 1 and everyone held each other up. This is a scary moment because everyone has enough traction in reserve to swerve in or out, and there are 7-9 bikes all within a small piece of real estate. I kept to the inside of every corner, but was almost crashing into everyone as they dove in from the fast line to take the apex from me. Not wanting to bean anyone off the track, I settled into 7th spot of the 9 machines on the grid as we entered the back straight. It was Matt and Rhonda of Tefft Cellars, Mike and Cindy of Bad Cat Racing, and myself in race for 5th spot. I stayed with them onto the front straight, getting a great drive. As I waited for them to power away from me, the strangest thing happend. I stuck in their draft. While Bad Cat raced around Tefft Cellars at the end of the straight, I slotted in behind them and we all locked on nose-to-tail. I poked out on the brakes in every turn, but couldn’t seem to get a nose in their to make a pass.
Bad Cat suddenly slowed and it was me and Tefft Cellars. I could see passenger Rhonda looking back at me as she tucked in for the front straight. She must have known their was a problem with their engine, and I was licking my lips at this opportunity. As we came up to turn 1 I shot out of the draft and got HARD on the brakes, aiming to the inside. I got to the inside and couldn’t slow in time to turn in. I released the brakes and started drifting wide at about 110mph. I was hoping to miss the Tefft Cellars bike, which was sporting a cherry new paint job. They gave me room and as the chair wheel unlocked I could steer again. We were weaving under the forces of my turn in and I looked out to the tire wall for a good place to crash.
CRASH?!! No way! I hammered the throttle open and she tracked up to the outside edge of turn 2. I spent the remainder of this 7 lap race looking over my shoulder and seing the big “double zero” numbers on their nose poking in. I couldn’t shake them and each time I checked to make sure they weren’t passing on the brakes I’d see nothing. Then when I looked again as we accelerated out, they were right there. On the straights I could feel them pull out of the draft, but not quite have the steam to get around. I made a sliding, hairball drive onto the front straight for the last lap and held on for 5th place. An excellent finish.
This was an anti-climactic race since Tefft Cellars fixed their fueling problem and Team Bad Cat had electronic problems from the start. The one interesting thing was points leader Wade Boyd. They slowed in turn 1 on the first lap, obviously in trouble. They pulled almost of the track in turn 4, but suddenly turned in anyway. A big handful of brake and I missed them as they came accross. Not one to miss this opportunity, I charged after them. For lap 2 I was able to slide into striking distance, then they would leave me on the straight. After the race I learned their chair wheel had lost brakes, and the had to do the race with almost entirely the front brake. After 2.5 laps of fruitless chasing, I realized their problem wasnt with the engine, and I was losing ground. I rolled back to about 65% and cruised the rest of the race, letting the engine survive another day and keeping heat out of the rear tire, which I have to make last one more round (the double-header at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah).
With the gremlins striking Bad Cat Racing, my 3rd position in drivers points is almost locked up, but I will still need to finish the remaining races. I have to miss the Seattle double-header, but since Bad Cat’s driver, Mike Jones, raced the early season as a passenger, it evens things up a bit.
Stay tuned for updates as I prepare the bike for the big race at Miller, and look in for my big race report from the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado. It was a mega-adventure and will take a long while to get fully expressed in print.